GSA, DOD seek clean electricity to meet emissions targets

A coal-fired power plant in Orlando, Fla.

A coal-fired power plant in Orlando, Fla. Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The federal government's two top buyers of electricity are exploring ways to procure carbon-pollution free electricity to meet the demands of a Biden administration executive order.

The General Services Administration and the Department of Defense are seeking information on how to supply the federal government with pollution-free electricity as part of the Biden administration's efforts to decarbonize the power sector by 2035. 

A joint request for information released this week indicated the federal government's two major suppliers for electricity were moving forward with objectives outlined in President Joe Biden's executive order, titled "Catalyzing Clean Energy Industries and Jobs Through Federal Sustainability," which sets the target dates of 2035 and 2050 for a carbon pollution-free electricity sector and economy-wide net zero emissions, respectively. 

The RFI said the federal government is seeking input from tech firms, utilities, developers and others about how best to procure clean electricity on a 24/7 basis, supporting real-time energy demands across regional grids from sustainable resources like solar and wind "for all its operations by 2030."

Officials said the shift will position the federal government, which operates a fleet of nearly 600,000 vehicles and maintains 300,000 buildings nationwide, as a global carbon-free electricity leader. The DOD, one of the largest electricity purchasers in the world and the top energy user within the federal government, said it intended to use the department's buying powers to speed up the timeline for CFE deployment.

"As one of the largest electricity users in the country, the Department of Defense has an opportunity to lead the way in transitioning to carbon-free electricity," Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks said in a statement. "It's not just critical to addressing the threat of climate change, but also to our national security as we work to secure U.S. competitiveness in rapidly-shifting global energy markets."

Hicks said the RFI "sends a clear signal" to the private sector that DOD was "well underway" in its efforts to move towards a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035. 

The RFI is also seeking input on how the government can achieve a series of ambitious climate goals outlined in the Federal Sustainability Plan, which accompanied the release of the executive order last year. The plan aims to achieve 100% carbon-free electricity by 2030, including 50% on a 24/7 basis, as well as 100% zero-emission vehicle acquisitions by 2035.

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